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Coping with change: Investigating the relationships between behavioural flexibility, stress and early environment

Abstract
Organisms have to adapt to changing environments in order to survive and behavioral flexibility via learning plays an important role in adaptation within an individual’s life time. Stress reactivity is a key factor influencing flexibility. The physiological stress response is an adaptive mechanism that prepares an organism to adverse conditions (e.g. predator attacks) by providing extra energy. Brief stress may enhance attention and memory formation, which are major components of flexibility. However, long-lasting disturbance results in chronic stress activation, which may in turn impair flexibility. Both early-life experiences and nutritional state modulate how animals cope with stressful events. Theory predicts that well-nourished animals can compensate for the extra-energetic demand preventing them to reach the energetic threshold for an “emergency response”. They will remain in a chronically activated state, which may impair learning and flexibility. Using a cichlid fish model we will test how early environment, nutrition and variable stress exposure influence cognition and behavioral flexibility. Using an interdisciplinary approach, we will measure components of flexibility and reactivity of the stress axis at a behavioral, physiological and neuromolecular level. Combining approaches from cognitive biology, endocrinology and molecular neurobiology will further our understanding of the evolutionary conserved physiological pathways regulating behavioral flexibility.
Lemma
Coping with change
Coordination for vetmeduni vienna
Fusani Leonida
Coordination in general
Sabine Tebbich
Universität Wien, Universitätsring 1, 1010 Wien, Austria
Duration
01.04.19-31.05.23
Programme
WWTF Cognitive Sciences Call 2018
Type of Research
Basic research
Staff
Fusani L.,
Vetmed Research Units
Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology, Unit of Ornithology
Projekt partner
Universität Bern, Hochschulstrasse 6, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
Funded by
Wiener Wissenschafts-, Forschungs- und Technologiefonds (WWTF), Schlickgasse 3/12, 1090 Wien, Austria
Publication

Fischer, S; Balshine, S; Hadolt, MC; Schaedelin, FC (2021): Siblings matter: Family heterogeneity improves associative learning later in life. Ethology 2021; 127: 897-907
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